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The Straight Poop on Cloth Diapers

By Amalah

O Great and Mighty Cloth Diapering Amalah,

I have an issue with cloth diapers. It is apparently an issue that nobody else commenting has. It is an issue that you clearly stated you don’t deal with. My issue is… Poop.

Now, let me clarify. I do not squeal in horror when I have to wipe up a poopy little butt. I do not faint when I accidentally get a bit of poopy on my hand while cleaning up the baby. When an acquaintance mentioned he didn’t want kids because he couldn’t stand the thought of getting poop on him, I started praying he’d be sterile because SERIOUSLY, you just can’t have kids if you mind poop.

However, poop IS gross. Plopping a solid turd off a cloth diaper into the toilet is cool. Getting semisolid (think sweet potato casserole) poop off a cloth diaper is NOT COOL. Having a toddler who does not have regular bowel habits, and who tends to have soft poopies, does not seem compatible with cloth diapers. Also, breastfed baby poo, same issue.

Even if I had one of those nifty toilet sprayers… unless it sprays so hard that I imagine the water jet bouncing back off the diaper onto the toilet tank, I can’t figure out how the squished-into-the-fabric poop is going to come off the diaper without me physically scrubbing it out. EW? And/or, then the possibility of leftover poop in the washer. Also… EW?!

Am I missing something, or am I just 100% incompatible with cloth diapering?

Thanks a zillion.

Well, actually, you ARE missing a couple handy tips that make the Poop Issue easier (more on those in a moment). And also the correlation between your truly-terrified-of-poop friend and your own fears — your imagination is generally worse than reality, and even when reality IS pretty gross (like that time my baby had an explosive poop all over my lap at a restaurant that only had the tiniest bathroom ever, like there wasn’t enough room between the toilet and the door for the diaper bag, much less a three-month-old) you just sort of…take it in stride and deal with it, knowing that the benefits of babies and children outweigh the occasional brush with grossness.

And speaking of benefits, the aforementioned Grossest Thing Ever story? Happened in a disposable. The explosive, leaking-out-the-leg-holes, shooting-up-the-back poops always happen in disposables. bumGenius? Fuzzi Bunz? They contain those poops. They LAUGH at those poops.

As for dealing with your Standard Issue Baby Poop, there are a few things you should know about cloth diapers. First, breastmilk poop is completely and 100% water soluble. You do nothing to these diapers except toss them in your pail, then they go directly in the wash, no scrubbing or rinsing or scraping. The poop washes away, really and truly. We were just starting solids when we switched, and still regularly had all-breastmilk poops, and I can testify that really, it was like washing mustard-colored water.

Once you’re dealing with real poops, the mantra really becomes “you do the best you can.” Dump or shake or scrape off what you can — as long as we’re not talking huge chunks of solids, your washing machine can very likely handle it. You can use flushable liners to catch most of it, even when we’re talking about sweet potato casserole. I use the rice paper liners (aka flushable liners), and while they do their intended job just fine, I don’t love them because they don’t strike me as being particularly comfortable. (They kind of stick to little-boy parts and aren’t very soft.) I’ve heard very high praise for the Bummis liners, though, and plan to try those next. (When I run out of my supply of 200-for-12-bucks rice paper liners. Sometime in the next century.)

If, say, you’ve got a really nasty load and didn’t use a liner, or your child has diarrhea, I’ve HEARD the diaper sprayers are a godsend. But I’ll have to leave it to the commenters to describe the process in more detail, because I don’t personally own one. I do, however, own a 99-cent plastic spatula. I store it under the sink in a plastic bucket, and bust it out to scrape smushy poops off. It literally takes two seconds, then I rinse it off, wipe it down with a Clorox wipe and toss it back in the bucket.

(Also, if I may get even more graphic here, and this may just be my own personal experience…but have any other cloth diaperers noticed that poops don’t get quite as compressed and spread out as they do in disposables? This could be because of my bad habit of squeezing my kids into slightly-too-small diapers for too long because I bought too many Size Twos right before a growth spurt, but I feel like I deal with fewer really messy poops and more shake-able turds now.)

And finally, your choice of diaper pail is important. We use the dry pail system — a regular metal pail with a tight-fitting lid and a liner bag for smell-containment and easy laundry-day transferring. We used the bumGenius Odor Remover spray for awhile but lost interest once we ran out — it was best for really ammonia-heavy toddler pee, which we aren’t dealing with anymore. The dry pail system is the one that requires the shaking and scraping, though I admit I have tossed some NASTY DIAPERS in there. As long as we do a good long cold soak in the washer and drain the water before actually washing the diapers, I have never had a problem with stray solids staying in the washer. (I don’t have a great fancy HE washer either, just a standard ancient-ish top loader.)

If you want to skip the shaking and scraping process, you can opt for a wet pail. It basically starts the soaking process right there in the pail. Pull the diaper off your baby, toss it into a pail filled about halfway with water and (this is important for safety) LOCK THE LID. Personally, I’d still shake as much as possible into the toilet first, but I did that even when I used disposables, because EW. Why keep it around in the house if you don’t absolutely have to? We went with the dry pail system mostly because of the layout of our house — we have to carry laundry down two flights of stairs, and a wet pail is HEAVY with all that water. If we still lived in our condo, where the diaper pail sat less than three feet away from our washer, I’d probably give it a try, just for the better stain-prevention benefits. Your choice probably should depend on which you find more gross — shaking/scraping a couple times a day…or confronting a bucket of brown poop-water on laundry day.

I know this all sounds like so much, uh, up-close-and-personal dealing-with-poop WORK, but I swear to God, it really isn’t. I can take most of the bodily fluid aspects of motherhood in stride, but it’s not like I ENJOY dealing with rank diapers and bad smells and all of that. It just doesn’t really take that long, or that much real effort. Ask my husband, who was at one time every bit as terrified of the Poop Thing as your childless friend, but is now a fellow cloth diaper evangelist. (I think our only complaint is directed at each other, since both my husband and I have a habit of setting dirty diapers on the bathroom sink while we get the baby dressed and situated someplace else…and then completely forget to go back and deal with the diaper. Surprise!)

(Oh, and while this doesn’t directly involve the topic at hand, this column has become my primary place to geek out about cloth diapers, so I’ll tack it on anyway: Finally sacked up and switched to powdered Charlie’s Soap after we started having some pretty bad Stink Problems. Oh. Em. Gee. You guys. I love it. I beyond love it. I am tempted to take the bag to bed with me for cuddles.)

Related Entries:

1) Cloth Diapering 101 (Part 1)
2) Cloth Diapering 101 (Part 2)
3) Cloth Diapering 101 (Part 3)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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